What Your Customers Really Think: An Interview with Mike Ginley

One of the most eagerly anticipated presentations at the VIBE Conference each year is Mike Ginley’s research of on-premise beverage behavior among consumers. Here’s a first look at some of the information Mike will share with you, a day before the conference kickoff. We’ll see you tomorrow!

VIBE: You've been doing this survey for VIBE for a few years now. What sort of changes are you seeing this year as opposed to what you’ve seen in the past?

Mike Ginley: One thing that I noticed this year more than in past years is the growing interest in food and drink pairing. When we ask consumers what they want to see more of on the beer, wine and spirit menus they order from, more food and drink pairing suggestions top the list across all three beverage categories. This is a rather new development.

VIBE: Are there specific on-premise trends that give you cause for optimism?

Mike: Yes. Across beer, wine and spirits, consumers are looking to order drinks based on value, and they define value as the highest quality they can get at the best price. Very few consumers are ordering the lowest priced drinks available. Even more encouraging is the fact that about two-thirds of consumers will trade up to a better drink from the one they ordered for $1 to $2 more if the bartenders or servers suggest it.

VIBE: Regarding wine, you found that many people hesitate to order wine due to price. In your opinion, does that indicate that restaurants need to revisit their price mix?

Mike: I think wine price mix should be revisited. There are several factors that make the price/value relationship for wine on menus more complicated than for spirits or beer. Consumers lack education about wine and fear that they will order the wrong one. The wine list can be large and intimidating. Wine prices have the largest range, from low-priced per glass to high-priced. Wine prices on-premise are most often compared to what a bottle would cost off-premise. Wine typically underperforms as a percent of beverage mix for most chains, and pricing appears to be a major factor.

VIBE: What are the emerging trends in cocktails? Flavor-focused, or maybe spirit-focused? Perhaps a specific type of cocktail?

Mike: The biggest trend in cocktails is not flavor or spirit focused, it is preparation focused. The most important trend in cocktails is fresh, handcrafted cocktails.

VIBE: Despite the finding on wine prices perhaps being too high, Millennials seem not to care so much about cocktails costing so much. Are there other price-sensitive data you can mention in advance?

Mike: In general, Millennials want quality drinks and they will pay a premium for them. Looking at age and gender, we see females and older consumers are much more price sensitive that males and younger consumers. It ties back to how they see the economy, and how they have had to adjust their spending as a result of the current economy.

VIBE: What's the most surprising bit of infomation you uncovered this year?

Mike: Despite reports that consumers are tired of vodka in general and flavored vodka in particular, vodka remains the top selling spirits category, and flavored vodkas are still a very important part of consumer cocktail orders.

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